There is a lot of evidence on the benefits of babies and kids growing up with a dog. There is no research on what the best methods are to prepare your dog for a new addition to the family and how to ensure everything goes smoothly once your baby arrives. To tackle these topics, I talk to John and Jaime Caponetta. They are experts in dog behavior and have many years of experience training dogs from all backgrounds for many different families. Read this article to learn how to prepare your dog for your baby, introduce them, and navigate growing your family with your dog.
Thank you to John and Jaime Caponetta of Pawsome University for sharing their expertise for this episode.
Jaime has her certification as a K9 trainer from the Animal Behavior College in California and earned the title of Associate Certified K9 Behavior Consultant by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. John Caponetta is a former humane law enforcement officer and has seven years of experience working in animal welfare. He is planning to become a certified instructor in pet first aid & CPR. Both John and Jamie are on boards or support multiple non-profit organizations that provide dog training to families facing financial hardship or support fostering dogs and keeping them out of shelters or euthanized due to a lack of services. Together these two run Pawsome University, which offers one on one in-home professional dog training using only positive and fear-free training methods. Plus, they have a podcast called Pawsome University. John and Jamie welcomed a baby about seven months ago. They are experts in dog behavior. They are the perfect resource to help guide you through preparing your dog for your new baby and ensuring that everything goes smoothly after your baby arrives.
See the follow-up episode with Jaime and John on Troubleshooting Your Dog with a New Baby.
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Transcript and Resources
Vanessa: Today, on the podcast, I have Jamie and John Caponetta. Jamie has her certification as a canine trainer from the animal behavior college in California and earned the title of Associate Certified Canine Behavior Consultant by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. John has over seven years of experience working in animal welfare, and he’s planning to become a certified instructor in pet first aid and CPR. Both John and Jamie are on boards or support multiple non-profit organizations that provide dog training to families facing financial hardship or that support fostering dogs and keeping them out of shelters. Together these two run Pawsome University, which offers one-on-one in-home professional dog training, and they focus on positive and fear-free training methods. Plus, they have a podcast called Pawsome University, and John and Jamie also welcomed a baby almost eight months ago. They are experts in dog behavior, and they’re going to be the perfect resource to help guide you through preparing your dog for your new baby and ensuring that everything goes smoothly after your baby arrives. John and Jamie, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast. Thank you so much for having us. We’re very excited to be here. Is there anything else that you wanted to add to that bio? I know you guys had a lot of experience with dog training, and is there anything you wanted to add to that?
John: Yeah, the only other thing is that I’m a former humane law enforcement officer. I did animal cruelty investigations in our state. I think you really did a good job of covering them because we’re hard to explain as far as what we do.
Research on Dogs and Babies
Vanessa: I love that you pull in from so many different areas of being around dogs and training and especially all the non-profit work you do. I wanted to briefly touch on some research around having a dog with small children. Obviously, there are some challenges to make sure that everything’s going smoothly when you welcome a new baby, and we’re going to get into all of that. There is also a lot of research-based benefits to having a dog, and there’s research showing that children with a dog at home have lower rates of respiratory illnesses. One study showed that exposure to two or more dogs or cats in the first year of life is associated with a lower probability of allergies at age six or seven. Research shows that exposure to a dog or cat in the first year of life can reduce sensitization to dog or cat allergies at age 18. One study found that exposure to pets contributes to how infants look at and learn about animal faces. What there’s not a lot of research on is dog behavior with a newborn, which obviously is why I have you on the podcast today.
Preparing Your Dog For a New Baby
Vanessa: I want to start with what to do when you’re pregnant. Is there anything you can do to prepare your dog before your baby arrives?
Jaime: 100% I usually have a lot of clients that will come to us already pregnant and totally freaking out because their dog is not where the dog needs to be in terms of manners and being in control of the situation when there is a newborn around. They’re looking to John and me for some advice on what to do now. There are so many things that you can do to prepare your dog.
I actually have two clients right now that are kind of dealing with this. They are on their way. I think they’re 30 weeks pregnant at this point. We’ve been at it for about five weeks, and their dog is very high strung, lots of stress, she’s a little bit older. I want to say she’s around six, a smaller dog, reactive, will bark and get super excited when people come in. She is a little unruly at times. You can’t really know exactly what she’s going to do. This is the typical dog that we get called about in terms of being stressed about a new baby coming.
There are lots of things that we can do. First off, we started with some command-based work because she hasn’t had any command-based work in the past. At her age, that could be a reason why she’s a little bit stressed in certain social situations. We definitely wanted to nail down some commands for her so she can better listen to her parents when they need her to.
We can absolutely work on desensitization to people coming over because that’s one of the biggest things that happens when getting a new baby. Everybody wants to come to see the new baby. Possibly not right now, considering the world and COVID-19. But in normal times, that’s what’s usually going to happen.
Now in terms of getting the dog ready for the baby itself, John and I have had great success with our clients in terms of playing videos of babies crying or different baby noises. You are getting them used to those sounds because that’s not normal. That’s not what you hear in your daily life if you don’t have a child around. Playing the baby cries can be a little off-putting and kind of concerning for some dogs. They feel like they need to go do something. If you’ve ever seen another dog that’s maybe more emotional, not the more independent dog, but hears another dog crying, they get very worked up as well. These are things that we want to desensitize them to when the baby is crying on the video or maybe even having a toy baby.
Our current clients have a toy baby. They call baby Drew, and they use that kind of as a prop for their dog. When that happens, if the baby’s crying and the dog is showing some sort of interest, we’re giving the dog praise. So “Good girl,” “Good boy.” We’re kind of being cheerleaders. We have really fun tones in our voice. There’s no yelling going on. We are happier than we usually are, and they’re getting praise, and they’re getting treats, and it’s a good experience for the dog. When the baby finally shows up, they’re like, oh, this is a piece of cake, no big deal. I’ve heard this for months.
John: Another big thing, something that we’ve seen in animal shelters is a lot of times we’ll see dogs get surrendered because of a new baby in the home, and things just aren’t working out. One of the biggest things is that people aren’t implementing anticipated lifestyle changes until the baby gets into the picture. So whether it be a big schedule change or a change in the dog’s routine. If you can anticipate those things happening, as you said earlier, Jamie, a lot of people coming over, stuff like that your dog might not be used to. You want to kind of start implementing those changes for two reasons. You want to start getting them ready and desensitizing them to those. And the other thing is once the baby is in the home, if you start implementing them after the babies in the home, they could start to almost blame this huge shift in their lifestyle. It could be a negative shift for some dogs, and they’ll start to take that out on the baby. They’ll say, all right, this baby came here, and now all of a sudden I’m not getting as much attention, people are coming over, and that stresses me out.
Jaime: You’re getting put away into a crate, and no one gets to see me.
John: Right, you really want to try and implement and try and think ahead. Think about your lifestyle and what you and your partner want to do as far as how you’re going to tackle each day. Of course, we know you can plan all you want, but it doesn’t work out that way. Try and figure out what your anticipated lifestyle changes will be and try and implement them as early as possible.
Jaime: I think the one that stands out to me the most is a lot of times when having a newborn, a lot of people don’t want their dogs sleeping in their beds any longer. If they’re going to be co-sleeping or they’re going to have a bassinet next to them, they don’t feel comfortable having the dog in the bed that close to the baby or if they’re breastfeeding. This is probably the one that I see the most where this is a huge change. I bring this one up because to your dog, sleeping in bed with you at night is probably the highlight of their day. That’s their norm, and that is what they know. This makes them feel good. This reduces their stress. If you have a huge cuddler, if you all of a sudden change this, the second the baby arrives and they have to sleep on the floor or in a crate, or in a different room and you lock the door, you close it, this is, this is going to be like the world is shattering. We need to come to this delicately. If this is something that you do want, you want to be more cautious, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I wouldn’t make such a drastic change. I would have the dog in a dog bed, maybe on the other side of the bed, from where the baby is. Maybe on your partner’s side of the bed and make it super fun for them. Give them a frozen marrow bone, a bully stick at night before bed to encourage them to stay on the bed, and then everybody goes to sleep, so this is not a huge negative for them. This is prior to the baby, even coming down the line.
When to Start Preparing Your Dog for Your Baby on the Way
Vanessa: What do you think about the timeframe? John, you had mentioned starting as early as possible. Like, are these things that the two of you did with your dogs when you were just early on in your pregnancy?
John: We have a very kind of crazy lifestyle as far as being self-employed, and we kind of have every day is a different schedule. Our dogs are very resilient to changes in our schedule, so we didn’t really need to prepare them so much for the environmental changes. We’re just very blessed to have two kinds of easy dogs.
Jaime: They are very easy going, but Pudge, the little one, she’s only 12 pounds. She was a hoarding case dog. So she was found in a house with over 300 dogs, and she was only two weeks at the time when I first got her. We were foster failures. That means basically you foster a dog, and then you can’t give it back. So you keep the dog because you’re in love. So we are foster failures. We’ve had her from a very, very early age. At that time, I was only part-time at the shelter, and I was part-time babysitting. The family that I was babysitting for had a three-month-old. So Pudge basically was raised with Lily, and now they’re best friends. She learned with the other girls who were three and six at the time, so she kind of was raised with children. So for her, this was a really good option. I know we’re going to get down the line about picking dogs for specific ages and stuff like that. It really depends on what you’re doing with that dog. But if they’re raised together, you have a more likeability that they’re all going to get along, and it’s going to go well from an early age.
In terms of getting them ready and a timeframe, anything can be changed at any moment. We just have to go about it the right way. A lot of times, these things are rushed. And I do find there are a lot of clients like John said, that people have babies and then all of a sudden the dog gets surrendered to the shelter because they weren’t thinking about the dog when you are getting pregnant. Or, if it just happens, your dog needs to be the first priority until that baby comes. So you can make sure that the dog feels secure once that baby is there. In terms of how much time you have, the more you do it, the better it’s going to be for your dog. They just need to feel loved and that they’re appreciated, and that they’re not falling to the wayside.
Recommendations if You Are Considering Adding a Dog to Your Family
Vanessa: That makes sense. Since you brought it up if there’s someone who’s considering getting a dog, do you have any recommendations for the timing of that? Or recommendations for getting a puppy or getting an older dog?
Jaime: You know, there is never one right answer for every family. I think for us, considering that we are obviously very dog savvy, we’re trainers, we probably could have handled the puppy right before we got a baby. We always make it work, but there are some families whose schedules don’t allow for that. Let’s say a stay at home mom, dad goes to work, and mom is alone with the kids at home. That’s probably not the best option for them to get a puppy because she’s outnumbered, and puppies take a lot of work in the beginning. I would say maybe in the first six months of life. A puppy would be the best option for her.
John: I just want to cut in real quick. I would not recommend a puppy, but that’s my personal opinion. Puppies, you could get totally lucky and have such an easy dog, or you can have a dog that right off the bat needs behavior training and right off the bat is having medical issues or cannot get housebroken no matter how hard you try. I think if you are pregnant right now, one, congratulations, and two, you are going down a route where you might bite off way more than you can chew.
Vanessa: I think I shared with you guys when we were emailing back and forth, we got a puppy about two months ago. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a puppy, and I almost forgot how much work it is.
Jaime: It’s just like having a newborn. I say that to people all the time. I actually have one client who thinks her dogs are harder than her children. She is just having a rough time. It really depends on the dog. It’s like John said, you could get a puppy, and it’d be the luck of the draw, and you get a really good dog, that’s super lazy and good and doesn’t need a day of training and in its life. But that’s not always the case.
If you are pregnant early on and you’re thinking about getting a dog, and you’re thinking more of the rescue route, that’s what I find to be the best option. You can go to your local shelter. You can go to a foster home. You can meet these dogs to see their personality and what their past situation is. You have a little bit more leeway and learn a little bit more about the dog prior to the adoption to know what they kind of do. Some foster homes even have children. So you can know, okay, this dog has been around a baby before. Maybe this is a good choice for us six months before we have a baby. We have six months to get the dog acclimated to the home, and then the baby comes. There’s always a way around everything, but I would highly suggest not going for a puppy right off the bat.
Introducing Your Dog to Your Baby
Vanessa: That makes sense to hold off on that. We talked about some things doing when you’re still pregnant if you’re going to change any rules with the dog sleeping on the bed. I feel like there’s this big thing about the introduction after your baby is born. The majority of people are having their baby at a hospital and bringing the baby home to meet the dog. What tips can you give us for how to make that go smoothly? Does it even need to be a big planned out production?
John: I think that you can always make it a big planned out production just out of safety, to be safe. I think one of the biggest things, and it’s something that we did, even though we knew we didn’t really need to because we know what we’re working with our two dogs. We still had one of our friends bring one of the receiving blankets home from the hospital that the baby slept in. It smelled like the baby and allowed our dogs to smell it and lay down with it and just kind of get used to that new scent because it’s something they’ve never smelled before. With the hope that when the baby does come home, they will smell it again and associate, okay, you’re familiar. I smelled this smell for the first time in the comfort of my own home.
Jaime: Like John said, with our dogs, it wasn’t necessary for this to happen because they’re both really good with kids, but this is really helpful for other dogs in situations that haven’t really been around kids before. It just makes them more familiar. I think the introduction in itself, like John said, you can make it a big thing, and it could be something that you’re really focusing on, you’re giving your attention to your dog when the baby is coming in. You’re not just coming in, pushing the dog to the wayside, running to the nursery and making them feel like, well, what just happened? Like, that was so weird. That’s not what they normally do when they’ve been gone for four days. We want to make this a big thing, a happy thing, but we don’t want this to be a stressful thing.
If mom or dad are stressed, the dog will absolutely pick up on that. We all need to be happy and hoping for the best we need to not have that rigid type of like, Oh my God, don’t touch the baby. That makes the dogs very nervous, and they can totally pick up on our body movements and stuff like that. When we came in, we still had the baby in the car seat, and I let them both smell him through the car seat. They both got super excited. So I saw their body language. He was moving around a little bit, a few coos, and that got their attention. Their ears went up, and they were like, ooh, okay. That sounds fun. Whereas some dogs you’ll know when they’re not happy with that.
If that is something that kind of triggers them and they’re like, well, what is that? There’s more fear-based reactivity going on there, nine times out of 10. It’s not aggression in the way of like, Oh my God, I want to hurt this baby. It’s more of, is this thing going to hurt me? Do I have to defend myself? And that’s the first reaction when it’s more of a negative reaction on that front. I let them smell the baby. They both seemed really good, with wiggly butts. And then we took the baby out. I sat down on the couch. John kind of helped me with this. This is definitely not something that you should be doing on your own. There should be help involved with this, but we’re focused on the dogs. The dogs are our number one priority right now in terms of making sure that they are feeling comfortable with the baby being there.
They’re getting lots of praise and love and food from us. And again, we’re using that cheerleader’s voice, that baby voice that really lets them know we’re happy. So you should be happy. If we’re yelling or if we’re getting upset, they’re like, wow, okay, well, this is the first time I’m meeting this kid, and now I’m getting yelled at. So I’m associating that negativity with this child. So we definitely want to keep it very light and fun, and you’re letting them sniff. If you feel comfortable with your dog, sometimes you do have a younger dog that maybe is a jumper or a Nipper or anything like that. We want to just keep, keep a healthy distance.
John: I just want to add two things to that. Jaime, you had said that for the dogs to be the priority. I just want to elaborate on that. As far as your attention, you want to be paying attention to the dogs. If you ever hear about in law enforcement, they say, you always watch the hands. Because that’s where the hazard comes from is the hands. It’s the same thing with the dogs. You want to keep the dogs as your priority, as far as what you’re watching, because you want to be able to stay on top of their body language and see if they’re getting uncomfortable. You don’t want to be sitting there with you with your camera on your phone and filming the whole thing and not really paying attention too much. The other thing is that you don’t need to rush this. The whole introduction and sniffing and everything do not need to happen the second you walk through the door or even the first day or the second day. Take it as you’re comfortable. As long as you’re not punishing the dog in the meantime for trying to get a look or a sniff. All you’re doing is getting that dog more accustomed to the fact that there is somebody new here, there’s a new smell in here, and things are still okay,
Jaime: I’m still getting love. I’m still getting praised. I think it’s good to possibly have a grandparent, a very close friend, someone outside of the family there as a buffer for the dogs. Because again, you’re new parents, and you want to be focusing on your new bundle of joy. So sometimes you’re just distracted, and it’s good to have a third party there to kind of give the dogs what they need in those moments.
Dog Behaviors and Warning Signs When Meeting Your Baby
Vanessa: For someone that’s not a dog trainer, are there any warning signs? I suppose people know their dogs fairly well, but is there anything, in particular, that could be a sign that your dog is uncomfortable that you might not pick up on right away? Clearly, if they’re barking or if they’re really upset, it would be obvious. Are there any other behavioral signs that could be a clue that maybe your dog’s not really excited about the baby?
John: Absolutely. Body language is huge, and body language is literally its own language. For an untrained eye, it will be hard to pick up on some things. Believe it or not, one of the most common signs of stress in a dog is yawning. This is called a displacement behavior, which is a behavior that they’re displaying when they shouldn’t be. They’re not tired, but they’re yawning. They haven’t been presented food, but they’re licking their lips a lot. That’s another thing lip-licking or strange grooming. Suppose they’ve seemed really disinterested and are just sniffing around. There’s also the shake off, which is another displacement behavior. If you ever see a dog get out of a bath or get out of the pool and they shake all that water off themselves. If you see them do that and they’re not wet, they’re shaking off. They’re literally shaking off their stress. That’s a big stress indicator.
On top of that, you have the body language of the biggest thing, at least for a pre bite indicator, would be whole body stiffness. Some people may have seen it on their dogs before they’re called hackles. It’s when the hair at the base of their neck and at the base of their tail will stand up, almost like if you’ve seen a cat arch their back and look really big. That’s a way to look larger and more intimidating to an aggressor that wants to hurt them.
Jaime: In terms of body language, maybe not so much that they’re going to do anything physical, but the whale eye. It’s literally when their eyes get super big, and you can kind of see the crescent of the whites of their eyes underneath. This is. Basically, I’m scared, and I’m uncomfortable.
Also, ears up. But this is a hard one because there are so many different dog breeds. They all have different types of ears. Sometimes ears being up is not your dog’s indicator that this is what’s happening. So just try and keep an eye on your dog’s normal ear position. If it starts to get a little bit more pronounced and forward, like the body’s actually coming forward, like they’re trying to make themselves look kind of meaty, that’s usually not a great sign. Some of them, when they get upset, they’ll actually put their ears down and almost look like they’re in trouble. Any type of body language I would definitely look out for.
I do have a story that might help people better understand kind of what happened with us. My parents’ dog Gatsby was owned by my ex-boss when I worked in Philly way before I was a trainer. They got pregnant. They really didn’t do much training. He is a very large black lab. They lived in a townhouse. It just was not enough room for him. The situation, even before the baby, probably wasn’t the best in general. He had to get walked like three times a day. He went to doggy daycare. They didn’t spend a lot of time with him. He was definitely not their top priority even before the baby. So I think he was feeling stressed about that. The baby came, and he actually was at our house while the baby came home. They wanted to get acclimated. I don’t suggest it because then the baby’s home for three, four, or five days.
Then the dog comes back, and its territory is completely taken over by this tiny little human. Now it’s kind of being shunned to the corner. That’s exactly what happened with Gatsby, totally bamboozled. He was like, what is going on here? So he was actually quite terrified of this tiny little baby and would just lay in the corner on his bed and growl. The baby was kind of in the bassinet and would put his hands up, you know, as newborns do. Every single time the baby moved or queued, he was very nervous, and he would growl. Not near the baby. He was literally trying to get as far away as possible from the baby. So this is how we know the dog is uncomfortable but isn’t necessarily a threat. So because they didn’t do any prior socialization with Gatsby, this is exactly why they were having this problem. They were yelling at him and reprimanding him when he would grow. So now he’s okay, well, I’m trying to keep my distance from this kid. Then when I try to vocalize that I’m uncomfortable, I’m getting yelled at. So I really don’t like this kid. This had only started when this kid came around. That’s a good example of what we don’t want to do.
Now, fast forward a few years. He is now with my parents, loved around the clock, getting a lot of socialization and training from us. We brought JJ over, and he loves this baby so much. He actually doesn’t think that we are proper in terms of taking care of him and keeping him alive. Like he has to be, he’s on top of us, 24/7 with this kid. He’s like, okay, are you doing it right? Is he breathing? Is everything okay? It’s huge. It’s just because we did it so different when it came to JJ coming home that he was able to feel love. And he just feels so good around this kid. He gets a lot of praise and a lot of treats. So he’s feeling good about JJ. So you can absolutely turn it around, even if there is a negative start to anything like this.
Is Every Dog Trainable? Is it Ever Too Late?
Vanessa: That was another question I had. Is there ever a point when it’s too late? As you said, there are cases where people have a baby, and the dog goes after the baby, or for whatever reason, it’s just not working. And then they feel like they have to give up the dog. Even for an older dog, is every dog trainable?
Jaime: One hundred percent. At least that’s how I feel. Because when it comes to my clients, I never turn anybody away. There’s never been a dog that I’ve said, well, I can’t handle this. This dog needs to be euthanized or brought to the shelter. I don’t believe in that. Every dog can be fixed and trained with the proper dedication from their parents and the proper tools coming from the trainer.
Positive Reinforcement Over Punishment
Jaime: I think positive reinforcement is the only way to go in every situation. You should never be using any form of punishment, prong, collar, shock, colors, anything like that, especially around children. This is very delicate. Nine times out of ten, when I hear a story about a kid baby older child getting bit, it’s because something wasn’t done prior. It doesn’t just happen out of nowhere.
When Your Newborn Starts Crawling and Walking
Jaime: If a dog is okay with a baby when they’re in the newborn stage because they’re not walking yet. It’s a little bit threatening once they start moving around. If your dog’s behavior starts to change, that that is your biggest clue that you need to most likely get a trainer and figure out what’s going on. This can be fixed. We need to just desensitize the dog to the child’s new behavior and put a positive spin on it for the dog. If we’re going down the road in terms of now, the baby is walking getting older, and there are no consequences for the child in terms of being on top of the dog and being in the dog space and learning the cues of the dog when they’re uncomfortable from their parents. This can be a huge issue because it goes both ways. We can’t expect the dog to never react or nip or do anything despite what the child is doing. Both parties here need to be trained in some way.
I’m letting you know when kids are super little, probably from the year to the 18-month mark. This is difficult. It’s very hard to tell a kid, Hey, you can’t be doing this, but we can try. That is what we focus on a lot with our clients. We work with the children. We try to explain it to them. We have to be nice. This is how we pet Oakley, that we have to have an open palm, we’re not grabbing. We don’t go over to our dogs when they’re eating from their bowl. That’s not for you to touch. These are types of things that our children need to be learning as well. Understanding like John said, and how you said earlier, that pets really show kids how to have compassion and responsibility. From the beginning, you need to show your children that this is the way that we take care of them. This is the way that we make them feel comfortable. They’re not here at our disposal for us to like roll all-around with and do whatever we want and not expect any backlash in terms of feeling pain or anything like that.
I think that’s huge in when the child starts to walk and all this good stuff that we are positively reinforcing that dog every step of the way the baby’s crawling. Good boy, treats, praise, love, pets, all the good stuff. When they are walking around, let them keep their distance. Never force a dog to come and join you with the baby on the ground, or that’s is walking. Now, this dog is feeling threatened, and now you’re making them come over. We’re just putting them in a bad spot. Let them do whatever makes them feel comfortable while your child is learning.
Vanessa: Definitely. Having a new puppy with small kids, my youngest is two. You’re training the kids as much as you’re training the dog.
Jaime: Absolutely. It’s the biggest part of it because of both need to be aware of the other places that they can go, their limitations, and don’t cross those lines.
Vanessa: Right. Is there anything that surprised the two of you with having a baby and dogs? Obviously, you’re professional dog trainers, but was there anything that you were not expecting?
Jaime: Oakley, our big guy, we haven’t done a DNA test, but we think he’s a Rhodesian Ridgeback shepherd mix. He’s a big goof. He’s super sweet. He’s actually a therapy dog for kids. We go to schools, and they read to him. He does humane education programs and stuff like that. He absolutely loves children. I once have seen 30 children surround him at one time, and he basked in it. He loved it. Now that JJ is moving a lot more, he wants to love on the baby, but he keeps a healthy distance. I can tell he’s like, I don’t want to hurt the baby. I don’t want to get in trouble. So he actually isn’t doing what he normally does with older kids, with JJ. I find it very interesting. I see his body language, and he’s like, I hope I don’t mess this up. It’s quite cute because he is a big goof, and he doesn’t sometimes realize how big he is. I know that he’s really trying not to harm JJ in any way, and it’s actually very cute.
Using Dog treats for Training and Dogs that are Guarders
Vanessa: That does sound really cute. I know you talked about praising your dog and petting them and kind of loving on them a little bit. Is there any reason that you wouldn’t want to use treats?
Jaime: If you have a guarder, even before the children are involved, you need to be working on that guarding because that could be very dangerous. In terms of treats, it really depends. Even most of the time, when you have a guarded, and this is just in my experience, it’s once you lose possession of the treat that it can be guarded. Let’s say Oakley was a guarder, and he’s near the baby. The baby’s on the ground with John rolling around. Oakley is being super good about JJ crawling around, and I want to treat him for being so good in this situation. The treat is going from my hand to Oakley’s mouth. To him, historically, there’s no reason for him to want to hurt JJ because he’s around the food. It’s literally in my possession than to Oakley’s possession, and it’s gone.
In terms of having high-value work to eat toys, which is a marrow bone, bully stick, frozen Kongs, yak bones, anything that’s high value and is going to last that dog a good long time, that is when you want to avoid your children approaching the dog during those moments. We have a lot of clients that are saying, well, I want my dog to be okay regardless of who approaches them. I always say that’s honestly not fair. When you think about it, nobody really approaches us and takes our food when we’re eating. This actually causes more stress down the line. I have a lot of clients that say, Oh, well, I want to put my hands in my dog’s food. I want to take toys from them and then give them back. I want to take bones from them and then give it back, and I want them to give it freely. We’re actually putting more stress on the fact that they think, okay, well now they’re going to take my bone again. And now they’re worried about hoarding it for themselves and not giving it up. So this actually will increase the likeability of having a guarder. If we just keep it more of a calm, nonchalant type experience for the dog, while having high-value stuff, they’re getting treated while someone’s walking by them, rather than us taking the object, we’re going to be having a lot more luck in that area.
When You Need to Involve a Professional Trainer
Jaime: Guarding is probably the biggest danger in terms of training a dog. You absolutely, 100% can not do this by yourself at home. You needed a behavioral trainer. Not a regular certified dog trainer. This is a behavioral consultant or a behaviorist who is actually a vet. If anybody tells you that they are a behaviorist and they are not a certified vet, they are lying to you. This is huge. I stress this to my families with kids all the time that this is not something that you should be handled because it can go very wrong very quickly. It’s very delicate, and you’re literally working with the dog psyche and how they react to resources. We want to make sure that the kids are never put in danger.
Vanessa: What would be a red flag? When do you cross the line of the training that you’re trying to do at home isn’t really working that you should get a professional trainer involved?
John: I think that’s going to be, once you feel that your baby’s safety is at risk. You should immediately go right to getting some professional help. Especially babies being as tiny as they are, you don’t have much margin for error.
Jaime: Yeah, absolutely. I think that when it comes to this, from the very beginning, a lot of people will come to me and they’re like. We did a lot of research online. I cringe when I hear that because there are so many different people that are writing things online, and they all contradict each other. Then if you’re doing a combo of everything, you could really be confusing your dog so much. It can be very detrimental. Like John says, once you feel like someone’s in danger, you’re uncomfortable, do not wait. A lot of people wait. They think, maybe it’s just a phase. Maybe I can fix it myself. You can’t, and that’s okay. You can claim defeat, and that’s fine. Have some professional help because when your children are at risk, you need that. You need that extra help. You need someone to listen to all your woes, all your frustration and get it all out and start from scratch and fix it. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Virtual Dog Training
Vanessa: With the one on one training you do, how is that working to do that online?
Jaime: It’s tough, but it seems to be working pretty well in terms of virtual training. I have a lot of clients from all over the U.S. right now that are coming to me. Some of them are involving children as long as I can send them the resources that they need. I have a ton of videos of myself actually teaching dogs commands. It’s hard when I’m not physically with their dogs to watch. At least in the video, they can see me do it on other people’s dogs, so they can have a better reference when they’re practicing at home. The biggest thing that I tell my virtual clients is that they have to send me videos of them practicing their homework. They’re going to have homework. They’re going to have things that they have to do during the week. And I need to see it because if we’re doing something incorrectly, I need to correct you before we waste any time down the road. I think that’s the biggest thing. With kids, that is where we need to hit the mark is we need to make sure that we’re consistent with the way that we’re training around our children. So they can see us acting kind and sweet to our animals. We’re fixing the problem in the process of that. And I think it’s really good for kids to see that.
John: I also think it’s great that what we see right now is that the success rate for the virtual training, the online training is pretty much on par with the in-person training.
Vanessa: That’s yeah, that’s awesome. I would think you’re going to get out of it what you put into it, right? Like you were saying, you’re going to assign homework. You actually have to be doing these things and practicing them regularly.
Jaime: Absolutely. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of your own resources, your own money. I want to make sure that everybody’s getting out of it, what they put in. It’s hard when we come back two weeks later to have another session, and nothing’s been done. I don’t want to give you more homework because we didn’t get anywhere yet. I want to make sure that I’m not wasting your money. Cause I’m not in the business of that. That’s why I don’t do packages. When people come to me and ask what’s the package price. I don’t do that. We pay by the session, and that’s it because your dog may only need six sessions, not 10. I don’t want to charge you for ten.
John: Or you might only need a behavior consultation. It may just take for someone to hear you out and then give you a little bit of guidance for you to adjust your own game plan at home.
Jaime: Yeah, absolutely. I have so many people that say, Oh my God, why didn’t I think of that? That’s, that’s so obvious. You just needed to hear it from me, and now you’re good. Like John said, one session and we’re done, and I never hear from you again. And that’s fine.
Puppies, Dogs, and Kids
Vanessa: Yeah. It is interesting to have a puppy. Of course, I have been doing all my research and everything online, but it’s completely different talking to somebody who knows animal behavior really well—just hearing the voice of somebody who knows what they’re doing.
Jaime: What kind of dog do you have?
Vanessa: An Australian shepherd.
Jaime: A good breed. A boy or a girl?
Vanessa: A boy.
Jaime: How are you liking that?
Vanessa: It’s good. I thought we were really prepared for it, but not as much as I thought.
Jaime: How old are your kids?
Vanessa: Almost three and six.
Jaime: Good ages.
Vanessa: We had a puppy when my son was born, who was with us for 14 years, and she passed away. After some time, we were ready to have another dog in the family.
Jaime: Yes, it’s hard. Then you bring a new life into it, and you start over.
Vanessa: There is definitely something special about seeing your kids with a dog.
Jaime: Oh, God, what I melt. Awesome time. Oakley kisses JJs head, and I’m like, I love you so much. I love both of you.
John: It just brings out like their own inner compassion, which is really something amazing to see.
Jaime: Even like bringing Oakley to the therapy sessions at the schools and stuff. There are kids who are, are seriously struggling. Sometimes the teachers will say, you know so and so is really struggling at home right now, family-wise. And I’ll make sure that Oakley spends a little extra time with that kid. You just see these kids light up, especially with everything going on right now. I wish this was, you know, not happening and that we could bring Oakley back into the schools and get back into it. I feel like these kids need it more than ever. It’s just. It’s really hard. You’d be surprised how much stress comes off these kids when they see these dogs.
I’m actually training one family right now. The elder son, he’s about four and a half, and he has some anger management issues going on and behavioral issues. They wanted a dog specifically for him. It was a struggle trying to find a specific dog and an age, and this and that. They wound up getting a puppy, and I worked through it with them. To see this kid who has such a hard time, just coping with normal life and the way that he is with this dog, it is just so beautiful. Honestly, it was an honor when they asked me. I was like. I would absolutely love to train your therapy dog because that is just so great for this kid. Now they can grow up together, and you know, he’ll probably have this dog till he’s 16 or 17. Hopefully, fingers crossed.
Why Positive Reinforcement?
Vanessa: That is so special and such a cool story. Is there anything else that you guys think would be good to share on dogs and pregnancy and babies?
John: I think it’s so important whether you’re going to do the training yourself or you’re going to retain a trainer. It’s so important that you do positive reinforcement training. If you’re looking out for like a prong collar, shock collars, things like that, things that are negative reinforcer, you don’t want to use those. You want to stay away from those. Most of the time, when a dog is acting out with a baby or a kid, it’s coming from a place of insecurity, or it’s coming from a place of fear. Suppose they’re being faced with pain from a prong collar or a shock collar or something like that they’re only going to have even more negative associations with this baby or this child. They don’t think the way we do. They don’t reason the way we do. They’re not like, all right, there’s this thing on my neck, and it really hurts, and they keep pulling it, and I want this kid to go away. The way they process information, it’s more along the lines of this kid’s here, and every time this kid is here, I get this pain, and I don’t like this kid. It’s very black and white with them. You definitely want to make sure that you’re using positive reinforcement, you’re using treats and praise, and you’re keeping it super positive.
Keeping Your Dog’s Cup Full
John: Another thing that we like to talk about is, is your dog’s cup full? I think that this analogy, as long as you listen to this analogy and follow it, as far as keeping your dog’s cup full, it’ll stop you from encountering behavioral issues as your dog starts to bond with your baby and gets used to this new change. Jaime, could you talk about that?
Jaime: This is one of my favorite things to explain. Basically, is your cup full? Picture you have a cup. I’m going to talk about my cup real quick. I am married. I’m in love with my husband. I have a son who I’m obsessed with. I have amazing dogs. We own a house. I love my job. All these things fill my cup to the top, right? All positive stuff. Now let’s say the scenario. I didn’t like my job. I was miserable at my job. Every day I came home, and I had this weight on my shoulders that depletes my cup. Most of the time, when people have a depleted cup from one area of their life, they need to fill it with something else. Most of the time, it’s an undesirable type of behavior. Let’s say coming home and drinking a bunch because you’re depressed about the fact that you hate your job. That is not a really good option in terms of fixing that problem.
This happens with dogs as well if their cup is not full. The three things that mostly fill their cup are mental stimulation. I talked about that before. Frozen marrow bones, Kongs, any long-lasting treats, work to eat toys all give mental stimulation. Physical exercise, if we are not meeting the physical exercise needs of our dogs, that can be huge in terms of it being detrimental to their behavior during the day. They kind of go cuckoo. Then positive attention. This is a big one that a lot of people miss the mark on, and they don’t even realize that they’re missing the mark on it. This is the biggest one in terms of having children and dogs because we’re so focused on our kids. Nine times out of ten, we’re outnumbered. We usually have two to three kids and then one or more dogs, and there are only two parents most of the time or less. So we’re outnumbered, and all these individuals are pulling at us. This is where we miss the mark. What happens is if we’re not giving positive attention to our dogs, like loving up on them willingly without them asking, giving them extra treats just because we want to, and we’re focused on them, and we’re giving them our attention randomly at will.
If they’re not getting that, they’re feeling like they’re not getting enough attention, they’re going to do stuff to get negative attention. Like go and steal the tissue box, run around with toilet paper, steal the kids’ toys that they know that they’re not supposed to have. All they know is that when they do these naughty things, jump up on the counter, steal food, this and that. They know that they’re going to get a rise out of you. Just like kids, as most of you know, get excited. You say no enough times. They want that negative attention, even though it’s not really what they wanted to begin with. They’re not getting what they want. So they have to do something else to get this type of attention. To them, it’s all the same. Any attention is good attention. It’s the same thing with dogs. If you’re not giving it willingly, they’re going to find it in other ways. To them, they’re like, Oh, we’re all having a great time. To us, we’re like, Oh my God, this is so obnoxious. Why does my dog keep doing this? It’s most likely because their cup is not full, and we’re not meeting the mark in terms of criteria of what they need during the day. That is the biggest thing I want pet parents to focus on.
John: Especially bringing that baby home. I know it’s going to be so hard because one, you’re going to be so in love with your new baby and you’re going to want to spend all the time you possibly can with them. You’re also going to be exhausted. But you need to try so hard to make sure that the things that were in your dog’s life, the positive things that were in their life, whether it be daily walks or time to play, make sure they’re still getting that. If you can’t provide that, see if a family member or a friend can come over and spend some time with them and maybe a dog Walker if there’s a good dog walking service near you.
Jaime: Dog Walker is always a really good option because then they’re getting socialization from somebody else. So it’s an added to their cup now. Oh, I have a new friend that comes in place in the everyday. This is great.
John: Right. It goes beyond just little things like playing and going out for walks, you know, mental stimulation, if they were already like, you’d give them a treat every now and then our bully sick, make sure that they still get those nice times and that they still get some nice alone time with you.
Jaime: Yeah. That’s big. I missed that part.
John: Yeah. Because you don’t want them to have this association with the baby where the baby comes home, and now I get no love, and now I need to fight for attention. So now I need to act out to get attention from my parents.
Jaime: A lot of times, when the baby goes down for a nap, we’ll spend more time with Pudge and Oakley and sit on the couch and cuddle and do stuff that we used to do before the baby was here. They still feel like they are important that there’s still a huge part of this family.
John: It sounds so simple. It might even sound silly to some people, but it really is. It’s that simple. That’s all they want from us is love and affection.
Jaime: They don’t have jobs. They don’t have to do to list during the day. When we really think about it, we get so frustrated. I see some of my clients they’re about to pull their hair out of their heads. I always say you have to see it from their point of view. They don’t have a job. They don’t have a to-do list. During the day, whatever you come up with for them to do, that’s what they’re going to do. If there’s nothing on the to-do list, they’re going to get in trouble because they’re bored, and we need to take the brunt of that. That’s on us.
Choosing the Right Breed
Jaime: That goes back to picking the right dog for your family. If you don’t have an active lifestyle, do not get an active dog. Again, if you go for a purebred, you can absolutely do your research on the breed. If you’re going to rescue, you can go and meet that dog and get info from the foster family or from the shelter. Is this an active dog? What’s, what’s the situation? The more you learn about the dog you’re going to take on, the better it’s going to be.
Vanessa: I think all that work upfront will save you a lot of headaches and stress later on.
John: Absolutely. There’s nothing worse than having turmoil in your house between your dog and a new baby because we all know if you need to make a choice, we all know which one’s going.
Where to Learn More About Jaime and John
Vanessa: Right. Thank you so much. I feel like this has been immensely helpful. I love that you are so involved with different non-profits and fostering and that you have a focus on positive training and reinforcement. If listeners want to talk to you about potentially doing a training session or want to learn more about you, I will, of course, link to your website and your podcast. Is there anywhere, in particular, you want people to go?
John: They could definitely head over to our website. That’s PawesomeUniversity.com. You could search for us anywhere you listen to podcasts. Just search for Pawesome University. We’re up to, what are we coming on? Almost 60 episodes. I think we just hit our 60th episode. So we’re in episode 60 of season two. We have a ton of content in our podcasts that people should find helpful. There’s a lot of stuff on kids and babies as well. We also post a lot of fun facts and little clips from our training sessions and quick tips and stuff like that on our Instagram at Pawsome University.
Vanessa: Perfect. I will link all of that up. Thank you again so much for your time. I really appreciate it. Jaime: Thanks for having us on the show. Again, as I said earlier, I listened to you pretty much the entire time I was pregnant, and it’s just so full circle that I’m talking to you right now. I think it’s very funny and I’m very happy about it.
John: It’s very cool. And to all the, either soon to be new parents or new parents, you guys are going to be rock stars.
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